Rosh Hashanah 101

Challah and Honey

Tonight marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year.) For those of you who may not be familiar with this holiday and its rituals, here are a few frequently asked questions so you're ready to celebrate! Why do Jewish people celebrate Rosh Hashanah? It is the celebration of the New Year, in the Old Testament, where we pray and ask God to grant us a sweet year ahead because it is the time when our destiny will be ordained for the coming year. Jewish people ask God for forgiveness for the things they have done wrong during the past year. They also remind themselves not to repeat these mistakes in the coming year. It is a holiday that helps us become better people. It is for me an emotional cleansing, a renewal, a fresh beginning for the coming year. It is absolutely a happy holiday.

How was the date and theme was chosen? The Day of Judgment was not chosen arbitrarily. It is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve and their first actions toward the realization of “mankind’s role in God’s world." Rosh Hashanah emphasizes the special relationship between God and humanity.

What do Jews do on Rosh Hashanah? Millions of Jews around the world celebrate Rosh Hashanah by going to their synagogue. They may not attend services during the year, but they flock to their place of worship on Rosh Hashanah with their families to reflect on faith, family and their actions during the course of the year. After the service they celebrate that they have asked God for forgiveness for the past year's misgivings and look forward to the start of the New Year ahead.

How do Jewish people celebrate after evening religious services? Families gather together for an evening feast to welcome in the New Year. It is a joyous occasion with delicious foods and laughter and a sense of relief that all is forgiven and the start of a new beginning. My family reaches out to friends who are alone and we welcome them to our table. We do this because part of the celebration of Rosh Hashanah is about sustaining relationships, which really sustain us by helping others. This is called a mitzvah: a good deed done from religious duty and I add -- love.

How I support my Jewish friends during Rosh Hashanah? It is my custom to send out New Year’s cards and e-mails wishing our friends " A sweet New Year." My husband and I also invite friends who are alone to join our table to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.

Why do we dip challah bread and apples in honey on Rosh Hashanah? There is no symbol more connected with Rosh Hashanah than honey. At the holiday meals we dip our challah and apples in honey as a special prayer is said asking God to give us a good and sweet year. Honey symbolizes that sweetness. We also give jars of honey to those we love.

Shabbat shalom!

Do something GOOD today: Embrace your culture and that of those around you. The world is a beautiful melting pot!